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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  December 22, 2012 10:00pm-11:00pm EST

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former president of the campaign to prevent gun violence. craig whitney's book "living with guns," and in it, the former foreign correspondent explores the history of firearms in american society and poses an end to the culture war over guns. it's about an hour. >> host: craig whitney, you worked for the "new york times," a bureau chief reporter around the world, an organist, a specialist, wrote a book on organs, but "living with guns," how did you come up with this? >> guest: partly because i lived abroad, and asked by friends in those countries what is it with the united states, americans, and guns, why do you have a love affair with guns is the way they put it.
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i do my best to explain, but i realized that i didn't really know myself so i thought when i retired, when i had time, i would try to do research and find out why do we have the second amendment and how has it been understood during all the years it's been enforced, and the book was the result. >> host: i read the book with interest covering the history, the legal battles, covering what's going on current day, and let's go through a lot of that, and starting with the history. what surprised you the most with american history and saw the role give ups played or didn't play? >> guest: i grew up in massachusetts in the 50s, and, of course, we always made a big thing of thanksgiving and so on, and the kind of the way the story ran in schools when we learned about it was as the pilgrims came, friendly with the
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indians, celebrated the first thanksgiving, and everything was hunky dory. read the history of the colonies in massachusetts, and you find that relations between native americans and new english settlers who came in were anything but friendly much of the time. there was massacres on both sides, and tremendous hostility. understandable because of the native americans thought the land belonged to them, and low and behold, the immigrants took it away. that is certainly what surprised me. i know that then some questions raised by other historians about whether the colonists had as many guns as people nowadays say they did, but you look back at the history and find that guns were very important. if you were a white male over the age of 18, you were practically required to have a
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firearm and to produce it when called upon to defend your town or community or state. >> host: the tradition that came from britain or any place overseas or anyone taking the risk of crossing the ocean and run wild? >> guest: there was a common law right in england allowing people to have firearms for self-defense and other purposes issue and that right, common law right, traveled across the ocean with the colonists, and they needed the guns here, whereas in england, mostly, they did not. people soon came to have the facility, and knowledge of firearms, and, of course, as we all know, it produced the results of victory against the most powerful military country in the world at the time in the revolutionary war. >> host: i want to talk about that a little bit, and, again, people have hazy views on history, and, you know, it comes
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from movies or tv a lot of the time. when we had the revolutionary period, what was the role of guns in these militias or requirements that we talked about? >> guest: well, george washington didn't think a lot of the militia. he grouched about it at times, but he also made remarks that allowed how the militia was a useful thing to have and couldn't have bill the army without the existence of the militia and people in the militias, and more importantly, volunteers and others who knew how to use firearms, and that was key. >> host: so people used these on the frontier, protection against the indians, native americans, hunting certainly, and then during the colonies, some sense of responsibility for the common good. >> guest: exactly. the right, the common law right to have and use firearms came with a civic duty to use them
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when called upon. >> host: who was in charge of the militias? >> guest: well, local commanders, towns had them, in new england certainly, and later on, they became more broadly based, but as tensions and hostilities mounted between the british authorities and the colonists, the approach to revolutionary war, it was seen by many of the leaders at the time as an advantage that we americans knew how to use firearms. >> host: the -- at this time was there organized law enforcement in the communities, or was in effect, this group of volunteers or militia, was that the law enforcement? >> guest: depends on the size of the town, but there were not armed policemen running around in places like boston and philadelphia, but, sure, there were -- it was mostly locally based as i understand it. i'm not the world's greatest expert on pre-revolutionary
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history, but it was -- there certainly was a sense of duty to serve in militia when called upon. >> host: i know in military history, shots rang around the world, lexington, concord, 1775 #, everybody knows a little about that, but your book touches on this a little bit, but still a little confusing historically to me. the british were actually marching on the armoring because a lot of the guns and the ammunition, i assume, were stored at the armory, a common, in effect, communal place for the guns and the ammunition, marching there, and that's what paul revere warned folks about, wasn't it? >> guest: and the minmen -- minutemen came out successfully. >> host: in my mind, the armory talks about how it's a common usage, common purpose,
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which i know is not necessarily -- displg it's not -- displg -- >> guest: it's not necessarily a contradiction. if you didn't have a gun, and you should have according to the requirements in the towns, the town would sometimes provide it to you. they would then bill you for it. in a sense, it was private property even if they assigned you the weapon, but, sure, the militias needed to keep a supply of firearms and ammunition for those occasions when lots of force was needed to deal with an indian attack or whatever it was, and so they did have storage facilities in armories. >> host: even back then restrictions and regulations with the usage of guns. >> guest: sure. just take it a step further from the armories. if there were armories, there
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were also lists of militiamen; right? authorities knew who was in the militia and therefore who had guns and what kind of guns they had. when you hear today people resist the idea of any kind of registry of firearms, they had it in the colonies on the local levels. it was with us, some kind of regulation has. >> host: we go from this history to the revolutionary war that is successful, we're trying to form a country, we have the articles of confederation, and that government's two weeks, writing the constitution. this is where the second amendment obviously comes in. how did that all development? what's the -- >> guest: well, nowadays it's become fashionable among people who support gun rights strongly to pick out this or that quotation from this or that leader like samuel adams, thomas jefferson, or whoever and apply the second amendment was seen as a way to enable individuals to defend themselves and defend
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themselves against the government when it was tie tyrannical. that's a mismonsing. it was a political matter, the second amount. it was part of what became the bill of rights, and the reason for it is that when -- after the unhappy experience of the articles of confederation that led the founders to try to figure out a better way to govern the country, they came up with the constitution which we know is full of checks and balances, but as it was submitted to the states for ratification, it became clear that they might not get the nine states needed unless there were promises of still more controls over the potential for the federal government over stepping its powers and crushing the states which was not the object so the agreement was to come up with a set of amendments to it,
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and as -- make that the first order of business when congress convened. well, with that promise, they did get the nine states to ratify, and it went into effect, and congress met, and, indeed, they started discussing amendments, and to make a long story short, instead of sprinkling them into this or that provision of the articles of the constitution, they ended up as the bill of rights, the first ten amendments in the list, and the second amendment was none of them, but the wording of it indicates it didn't create anything new. it simply recognized the right that was already there and connected it with the political reason for it which was to ensure that the states could keep their militias even if the federal government had a standing army, which everybody at the time thought would be the worst idea possible. that could lead to tyranny, and this was seen as a check against
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that kind of tyranny, as a deterrent, if you will, to a tie tyrannical federal leader who could take over the country. >> host: discussion of self-defense or -- >> guest: very leal. >> host: or hunting? >> guest: very little. the amendment, itself, says nothing about self-defense, just a well-regulated militia being necessary to the defense of the prestate, the right, in other words, the existing right already shall not be infringed. >> host: a lot of arguments over that over the years with that too. in terms of the tyrannical government, what, you know, what did the founders seem to be thinking of? king george again or something -- >> guest: well, of course, they were coming out of the experience with the war against the british so the attempt to impose tyranny with the british army was in their minds, but
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they had been through a few years of the confederation -- >> host: and rebellion up in massachusetts. >> guest: they did, and they had trouble getting troops to answer the call to go fight. >> host: uh-huh. >> guest: and so they -- they thought -- you'll see there's quotations, especially from john adams, who makes it clear that they were not trying to create a situation where individuals who didn't like the federal government could go hold up an arsenal somewhere and hold off the feds when they came. >> host: some people talk like that today. >> guest: they do. it's not the way the guys, the founders, thought. they saw this strictly as a means of prereceiverring the -- preserving the state's abilities to keep their militias going in its place, and john adams says at one point that the militia is
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always subserve i can't to the state. it's not a rebellious -- >> host: well-regulated, ties into the governmental setup, and after the constitution is adopted in washington and you have the whisky tack -- tax and rebellion. how did they respond to that? >> guest: that went better than shay's rebellion did, but, sure. they recognized that they needed a strong federal power, but they needed to be checks that would ensure that the states kept powers as welt. >> host: over time, then, during 1800, the rest of the 1800s, we can -- 1900s, continue to have guns play a role in society, particularly, on the frontier. any surprises you found studying that era? >> guest: well, the main surprise to me was gun control in the wild west, and i grew up, western in the 50s, and plenty of guns there, and, well, in
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reality, you couldn't carry a gun around in a town like dodge city is a good example. there were laws against that. you had to depart with your arms. if you with a cowboy coming in from the plains, there was a place to store your pistol if you had one. >> host: that doesn't fit with the way people think about it. >> guest: no. this is, of course, in settlements, not in the wild prairie, but, you know, they were like towns everywhere today. you need a little law and order in town, and that's hard to keep up with everyone has a pistol. >> host: a shootout at okay corral. >> guest: it started because they had a firearm carried
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around town, and incidentally, the understanding of what gun rights were for start in the 19th century and particularly, in the south. in the early 19th century, there was a big problem with duals between gentlemen, obviously, the most famous is aaron burr and alexander hamilton, but dueling was popular, but frowned upon and could be prosecuted. burr had to move around to avoid being prosecuted. >> host: vice president burr actually. >> guest: was a vice president. but one of the means that people who insisted on being able to settle matters of honor on the spot started to do in the early 19th century was carry pistols, small ones, concealed. well this was seen by a
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gentleman as cowardly. you know, if you're going to be a man, wear your pistol on your hip, and don't sneakily carry it around inside your coat to, you know, that began to change. >> host: it's actually, still holds true today. most places don't have revixes on open carrying of guns, people don't realize, but places have restriction on concealed carrying of guns, back to the historical sense, cowards had the concealed guns, but if it was open, you were seeing what was coming. >> guest: right, when you came up on someone. vermont has no rules at all about that, but anyway, the -- >> host: the slave issue. >> guest: slaves also before the civil war, didn't have guns,
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and whites in the south, some of them began to see personal firearms as a means of defending themselves against slave rebelling, if they needed to. later on approaching the civil war, abolition a strong movement, abolitionists wanted to provide guns to no slavery and vice versa so they wanted to go to kansas to defend themselves against tax by their opponents. the ku klux klan and groups like that arose persecuting freed blacks in the south, and the blacks began to look for ways to defend themselves. the federal government tried to institute new state militias in the southern states, and blacks saw them as a way of
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self-defense. >> host: guns played a role in history. what was the legal understanding. when there were restrictions, did they consider that unconstitutional or one they thought as an urban area or city on the frontier trying to get its act together? >> guest: oddly, the courts didn't have much to say in gun rights except in state courts where, for the most part, the early ruling by state and lower federal courts supported the right and saw it as not a right that belonged to criminals, to be used for criminal purposes, but more as a right that was in connection with civic duty, but the supreme court didn't say anything about the second amendment for, oh, about a century. they mentioned it briefly in a
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ruling in 1875 #, -- 1876, and that was one that arose out of a horrible massacre, one of the worst in the reconstruction period where a whole -- hundreds or more, blacks had tried to defend themselves in louisiana and were attacked by white crowd that, and the federal government attempts to president the attackers on the grounds they deprived the blacks who were killed of of their -- >> host: 14th amendment issue. >> guest: and the supreme court dbt find that the case and said at that time, you know, we don't see there was any racial motivation at all here to deprive blacks of their rights specifically, and then in an
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aside, the ruling said that the right to keep and bear arms in the second amendment was not a right granted by the constitution. it was a preexisting right, and so if there was in the application, reports later extended from that to say that if it applied to anybody, it was to the federal government so it's simply a limitation on the federal government's ability to tell certain classes -- >> host: mostly how the bill of rights was interpreted by the courts. it applied to the federal government unless it was incorporated to the states. >> guest: we didn't get the incorporation to the states until 2010, a follow-up decision to the -- >> host: the chicago case. >> guest: right. >> host: how about in the 1900s, then? we got, you know, you got prohibition era. you've got john dylanger, machine guns, what's that? >> guest: well, prohibition
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produced organize crime and gmen and elliot ness and all of that, and, actually, the first real federal gun control measure that came into effect was as a result of that. >> host: 1934 fair -- firearm act. >> guest: exactly, upheld in 1939 by the supreme court. >> host: the miller case. >> guest: the miller case where somebody challenged the application of how could you be denied the right to have a machine gun and the supreme court said unless you can demonstrate the relationship between having a machine gun in private hands and the preservation of a well-regulated militia doesn't seem to have any application, that ruling was long interpreted to mean that the supreme court thought there was no individual right to have firearms that you had to be in
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some kind of a relationship to a militia or the militia or the national guard or whatever or the military to exercise your right to have firearms. >> host: 1938's a long time ago, and that was the law was land, clearly, until 2008. what changed during that time period? >> guest: well, incidentally, the 1934 firearms act is still enforced -- >> host: just as an aside, i always pointed that out showing how gun control can work. you don't see bank robbers with machine guns anymore. they have not banned them, but there's restrictions on them, and that seemed to have worked. >> guest: all the appalling gun massacres are -- none of them have been committed with a fully automatic weapon, but -- >> host: what happened? >> guest: well, you have the firearms act, and then importantly, the 1960 #s happened, and all the racial and
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social turbulence of the 60s and assassinations of president kennedy, his brother, martin luther king, eventually produced another gun control act of the 1968 gun control act that was then, even in the leadership of the nra at the time, and charles heston subscribed to a statement applied to by another hollywood tough guy calling for some regulation to prevent this repetition of the crimes and horrible assassinations, but i think it's like with a lot of gun control measures. you support them in california, ronald reagan supported a gun control measure because black panthers ran around with guns in the state legislature in sacramento. >> host: openly carrying the guns and in the pictures and everything. >> guest: passed a law making it harder, almost impossible to
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do that, imposing a waiting period between applying for a handgun and actually being able to buy it, and people say, oh, well that law will certainly stop the black panthers, but that law doesn't apply to just black panthers, but everybody. eventually, you get a black lash, and, well, you know, there's a social and political backlash in general to a lot of the things that happen, and i think gun control is one of them. >> host: the 68 act, i mean, that dealt mainly with the list of prohibitive purchasers; right? it was not saying that if you're a felon or habitual drag -- drug user or honorably discharged, dangerous, different terminology, but a list of eight or nine sections of people who should not be able to buy guns. >> guest: right, but at the
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time it was -- it took a long time to do those checks, and eventually, that was replaced by the system we have now, which is fully automated, and the fbi runs the national instant check system. >> host: actually, the way it worked is through or the 25-year period was in effect the honor system. you went in to buy a gun, and they said, craig, are you a felon? if you said no, you can buy the gun. >> guest: right. the 68 act allowed people to lie and get away with it, absolutely, and that was not changed, actually, until the gravy act when the nics eventually later came into play. >> host: the nra supporting things, the 68 act, prominent republicans supporting it. when did the mind set change and become different here? >> guest: well, interestingly, came as a surprise to me, too, to learn the nra was founded by
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two "new york times" reporters. >> host: now i know who to blame. >> guest: what they were concerned about was being prepared for national defense like the first world war and making sure that we have enough people in the country who knew how to use firearms that we would not be defeated if it came to a war. >> host: when i grew up, i got the nra badges at summer camp. >> guest: my son got one. >> host: i kept the badges too. it's a point of pride. that was a different nra i think. >> guest: the nra still does a lot of worthwhile training and certifying of ability to use firearms safely, and, but they became politically the leadership that had approved the 68 gun control act was overthrown, replaced by others, and eventually by charles heston was a spokesman for that faction, and now we have, you know, wayne firmly in the
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saddle, and politically it's very different organization from what it was in 1968, very clearly. it's also been able to raise huge amounts of money and become maybe the most powerful lobby here in washington. it plays basically on the backlash on people's fears of, well, if crime is rising and the police can't do anything about it, then how are we going to keep ourselves from being robbed, murdered, rained, and so on? we need firearms to defend ourselves, and the nra certainly has been playing on that line for many years. >> host: but as crime was rising in the 80s and early 1990s, crack cocaine and the gangs and more sophisticated guns, congress acted again. i mean, really only the third time they acted to do gun control measures. >> guest: with the -- >> host: the brady bill and assault weapon ban.
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how does that fit into the cronology then? >> guest: well, you had the attempted assassination of president reagan. took him ten years to come around to supporting a stronger measure. he eventually did, of course, the brady bill, and he wrote an op-ed in the "new york times," which i'm sure everybody in the nra forgot about, but i dug it up, and it's in the book saying that, you know, if we need some kind of measure like the one i signed when i was governor of california that makes people go through a waiting period before they can acquire handguns, and i think the assault weapons ban, which came out a little later -- >> host: the next year. >> guest: was more emotional than real. if you look at violent crimes committed with guns in our cities today or then, these
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assault weapons that look like m16s or ak47s did not figure in those importantly. those were mostly handguns, illegal handguns or pistols. >> host: saturday night specials from the 60s. >> guest: exactly, but assault weapons looked scary, and i think, you know, they are easy to scare people about. they had figured, of course, you know, disproportionally in the gun massacres like aurora and others, but even many of them are just committed with semiautomatic pistols and large capacity magazines which was part of the asame weapons ban to limit -- >> host: a lot of people probably don't understand the difference between a semiautomatic, fully automatic, and a single shot pistol. >> guest: right. are revolver, pull the trigger, each time fires a bullet, and
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one comes in the chamber, and you fire again. same with the semiautomatic pistol. semiautomatic assault weapons means you squeeze the trigger each time to fire, you can squeeze fast though. >> host: 30 # rounds in ten seconds. with a semiautomatic, you pull it back, and it keeps firing. >> guest: if you have a magazine with a hundred rounds in it the way the shooter did in the movie theater massacre, bathman episode, you can get a lot -- although the magazine jammed so, you know, couldn't get off all hundred rounds -- >> host: like the tucson shooter with gifford, that was a magazine with 31 rounds and got those off in 15 secs probably. >> guest: and prevented -- >> host: when he tried to reload. >> guest: so -- >> host: the brady bill, assault weapons ban -- >> guest: allowed to last.
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when the momentum behind keeping the ban ran out and president bush was in office -- >> host: instead of bill clinton. .. if you reinstated the ban now it would probably have the same grandfather clause as weapons previously purchased so i think
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a lot of times liberals, and i call the book a liberals case in the 2nd amendment, make the mistake of thinking that strict gun control is the way you control gun violence and that's the best way to control gun violence. i think if you could eliminate all 300 million guns we have in this country legal or illegal, surely gun violence would go down but we are not going to be old to do that. instead what happens is in places like new york where i live, the overwhelmingly the support to make it as difficult as possible for everybody to buy guns legally and that is seen as the best way to keep gun violence down. well it doesn't work. us go you are arguing against it. >> guest: criminals don't there with registering their guns. the way to try to control that
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and it will never be possible to eliminate it, is a thing to aim gun control measures at preventing people who shouldn't have guns, not people who ought to have the right and do according to the second amendment from acquiring them. >> host:>> host: before given solutions and i want to discuss those in detail, we kind of skipped over the hell are ruling in the mcdonald ruling. where does the second amendment stand now and i know you said in your book that you agree with the heller decision, the 2008 decision by justice scalia that says there is an individual right that you felt that the right result for the wrong reason. >> guest: i do agree that it's an individual right and i think history shows that but what the hell are decisions that was first of all, it's inconsistent. at one point scalia's opinion says according to the cruickshank decision, as we have said kneisley, it's not a right
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granted by the constitution. i think that davis says the second amendment conferred the right. well, how can it not be remanded by the constitution but the second amendment confers the right and he says was primarily about self-defense. nowhere in the debates about the second amendment back in the 18th century do you find much emphasis on individual self-defense. as we said previously that's not the reason for it. that's not the reason why the second amendment was written and put into the bill of rights. so i think the reasoning is specious but the conclusion is valid as an individual right so then what do you do? scalia goes on to say, that doesn't mean that it can be regulated. >> host: it's not unlimited. >> guest: right, long-standing regulations like to -- can't
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take guns to schools and that sort of thing. >> host: you can have limits on where you get guns, how they are sold in stored and even what kind of guns they are. >> guest: right, and that ruling was basic extended to the states in 2010 in the chicago case. mcdonnell was a black man who wanted to have a firearm -- >> host: actually had a firearm, he legally had a shot down and he wanted the pistol and couldn't because chicago had strict laws like the ones in the district. the court found in 2010 that have had to go just like the rule in the district to ban handguns. >> host: one thing i think in this day and age, you can make an argument or a valid question is, what difference did i really make except in d.c. and chicago? nobody was rushing out to pass new gun control laws. mayor bloomberg in new york and
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hillary clinton, barack obama all said it was an individual right and 75% of the american people thought it was an individual right in 95% of the politicians including those liberal politicians thought it was. other than getting rid of the d.c. law and the chicago law, what difference did it make? >> guest: is interesting. to me that was a surprise because a lot of in control advocates said, after both of those decisions, that probably the tsunami i think the word it was used of challenges to gun control regulations. there is certainly not been a tidal wave and they haven't mostly succeeded here in the district. they decided on a new set of regulations that still bans assault weapons and makes it necessary, you have to learn -- show that you know how to use a
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gun and can store it safely and know how to register it and so on and there is a challenge to that but i don't think it's been resolved yet. >> host: i know at least a couple hundred lawsuits across the country, lawsuits move slowly. at. >> guest: almost everyone of every one of them has upheld the laws. >> host: there was a tidal wave among judges to overthrow ben -- because of heller and mcdonald. >> guest: you have got this new definition of the second amendment and again at it one level i thought it was like how many angels can dance on the head of the pan? are there things we can do to help make our community safer? communities safer? i came with the issue as the mayor in ft. wayne indiana, a republican and we had rising crime and strengthening the police department in pushing for stronger laws but also realizing we make it too easy for dangerous people to get guns and sometimes they were outgunning my police department.
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>> guest: i think what we need to do is have that kind of discussion instead what usually happens after an atrocity like aurora is politicians on all sides with the violence and the death, we move on and wait for the next one. in new york city mayor bloomberg of course is one of the heads of mayors against illegal guns, which the nra has described as its worst enemy. >> host: mayor bloomberg from new york started it and now there are 500 plus mayors. >> guest: there is undeniably a gun violence problem in our country and nobody can deny it. unfortunately nobody is really talking very much about what can be done constitutionally and legally to make it less violence, less revealing as it is now. i think that is will we need to
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do. obama and romney came close to it. they touched on it. >> host: it came up in one debate. >> guest: there was some common ground they found, which my former newspaper, the times in an editorial said sort of, it was meaningless. well, it's not meaningless. if you're going to change the way people commit gun violence, not the guns themselves, how do you get it to behavior that leads people to troubled neighborhoods in our cities? in new york there are community guns that peoples -- and fire hydrants or streetlamps. you could do something about that. you could pass a law and impose a heavy penalty on using a community can. new york in 2006 raise the minimum sentence for using, having a loaded illegal gun on
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you to, three and half years. i think you could make it even higher and that might make it clear to people who provide guns illegally to people who can't buy them because their names are on that list in washington and west virginia. and ics list. >> host: that is the list that is accessed when you do a background check. >> guest: right. often criminals get around that by not -- by getting somebody else to buy it than for them aday gun show or something. >> host: a straw purchase. >> guest: that's another thing that could be changed, not just gun shows where you could die at them from a private seller without going through background check but it's about 40% of total gun sales are conducted -- >> host: without a background check? >> guest: you're not buying from a federally -- licensed dealer.
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>> host: one of the barriers to to a discussion as a lot of folks don't know how the laws works in one of the things i tried to point out is whether we have that many gun control laws on the books other than restrictions on fully automatic at the federal level. but even that at the state level aren't much different than that. you have restrictions on the fully automatic and you have a requirement to do the background check by the federally licensed dealer. that's basically it and that means that if you are buying from a so-called, if you are buying from your next-door neighbor you don't have to do about unchecked. >> guest: that's outrageous. >> host: that becomes a private seller exemption which is often exploited it and then shows well someone will set up week after week 100 hence never do a background check. >> guest: the nra is fiercely opposed to it. >> host: why would they oppose of that? >> guest: because any kind of
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restriction is unfettered freedom to own and use a gun. >> host: clearly it should be constitutional. >> guest: i can imagine -- sure it's just a loophole that doesn't apply to private sales. but i think that's certainly one area where you could find common ground. how can the nra opposed really convincingly regulation aimed at keeping people like criminals and drug addicts from acquiring guns? there is nothing in the nra's charter that supports gun rights for people like that. the nra is always the one that says don't make new gun control measures. enforce the laws that we have against criminals. and that should be something we can agree on. >> host: of course part of what is needed to really enforce those laws are stronger definition sometimes are stronger regulations of the list of prohibitive purchasers from
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1968 as drug users -- says drug addict or some such thing but it doesn't define how you treat that. if anyone who has ever used drugs were -- a purchaser have a lot more guns available to people. >> guest: that is a similar issue they are and i recognize the sensitivity. i know people myself who have had mental problems and dealt with them and a blanket prohibition against having a gun is something you want to think about very carefully. >> host: that is not really what most people are talking about. at virginia tech when the brady center discovered that a court in virginia had found him to be a danger to himself or others but the state of virginia hadn't sent that information and because he hadn't been ordered -- he wasn't committed. then, you know, that shows a major loophole and they actually found after that new york state
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only sent in for names of people that were dangerously mentally ill. that didn't make any sense at all. >> guest: [inaudible] they did tighten up, virginia did come its procedures. >> host: a federal law was passed so there was a federal bill passed by president bush in in a way that gave incentives to put more of these records in. >> guest: i don't know how much compliance there has there has been effectively. chuck schumer a senator from new york is trying to withhold money from states for various purposes to provide more names to these list. >> host: i have always looked at the issues, having a stronger background check system to make it harder for people that are dangerous from getting guns should be the way we are going and your book argues that. part of that gets into having a
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better definition of who is dangerous and making sure the wreckage of the system and then requiring that background check on all sales. >> guest: but to get to that you have to get past the hysteria that the nra and other groups like it had have created in the state legislature and in congress, where they practically have a stranglehold over any kind of discussion of issues like this. i think the legislators ought to think twice before they pass measures that basically enabled people to kill other people more easily. >> host: the george zimmerman situation in florida. >> guest: let the jury decide what happens there but pass a law to make it easier to kill people, criminals can take advantage of that law too. not just you who think you are in danger of being attacked as someone with a gun. i think it's just shameful that we have brushed past stand your ground.
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>> host: basically there has always been a right to self-defense in every state recognizes the right to self-defense but what these laws do in so many many cases is take away takeaways discretion of the prosecutor to lead to the rest arrest of the prosecutor to charge. >> guest: one of the things it did surprise me a little, i didn't conduct an issue wide survey of gun owners but among people who own guns that i talked with, i found very often the reaction, you know, you're way of thinking before and after you have got a gun is very different. i think any law-abiding gun owner realizes when he has got a gun, he or she, that is a huge responsibility. if you leave this with ben irresponsible your wrongly you could get yourself into legal trouble and of course you could cross the unnecessary user -- cause death to people you did
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not intend to do harm to. it makes you very careful. >> host: it should. >> guest: for most people it does but it would make people more careful if they all had to pass some kind of a test before they get a license. >> host: like before you can drive a car in general. >> guest: you don't in most places actually. >> host: one of the weaknesses i felt in your book, was dealing with the consequences of gun violence and you touched on it some. 12,000 people murdered with guns every year and another 18,000 commits suicide with guns every year. even mention someone, living with guns should not be living -- with guns. you talk with people that enjoy hunting and you talk to people at gun shows huard gun enthusiast. i don't think you have talked to anybody in the book that has been a direct victim.
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>> guest: the brady campaign has done so much to get people like that -- i certainly didn't intend to ignore the problem. but, if you look at the 30,000 rough year figure of people who have died and there are of course many thousands more who are injured by guns every year, but you know half of them are suicides. our gun violence rate in this country is very high. is much higher than european countries that have strict gun control but our fatal assaults rate is higher, excluding guns, than most european countries. america is a more violent prone, violence prone society than any european one today. a lot of that has to do with our
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history and our makeup and their mentality. but, yes, 30,000 is way too many and 18,000 deaths is way too many we ought to be discussing as many ways as we can to bring it down. i don't think were wherever going to eliminate it entirely though. >> host: one of the things you mentioned, you talk about stricter penalties and we have covered both of those. you mentioned licensing and registration. you touched on it briefly but that's something that does generally get peoples attention. how would you successfully work that? >> guest: first of all i would go back to the history and people ought to look at that and say, well we have always had gun registrations. it's just been on a local level. i think the second many and in the court's decision surrounding it probably make it clear that the federal government should be the agency that registers guns. in fact there are laws that congress has passed but there
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are some states that permit registering guns. why is that? it's part of the hysteria created by the extreme gun rights groups about any kind of gun regulation that is a step toward seizing your gun and destroying your freedoms to own and use firearms. but it's not. it sensible. you register cars. they can kill people too. their primary purpose isn't to kill people, and it's a primary purses -- purpose of handguns. >> host: i've always thought the automobile was a good one. if i'm going to sell my car to my next-door neighbor, i can't just sell my car time. he still has to go through the governmental paperwork to transfer the title of the car in the car has to be registered. if i get into an accident with a car, somebody's going to analyze why the accident happened and
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whether eventually do we need stricter rules on drunk driving or distracted driving or was the car at fault? those are all things we look at when we look at auto accidents. the individual responsibility to the design of the car and the good design of the road's. >> guest: the guns -- from regulating the way guns work to make sure they operate safely. >> host: how does that make sense? >> guest: it doesn't make sense. >> host: sometimes guns without the person do kill people too. >> guest: i don't know what federal regulation rules would be applied to gun manufacturers to make it safer to operate guns. right now is barred by
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congressional law. >> host: it amazes me, the restrictions and again i don't think people realize this, that the center for disease control is restricted on what they can look into, in terms of gun violence and the national institute of health is restricted on what they can look into and alcohol tobacco and firearms as far as what records they can keep. i mean we assume -- >> guest: law enforcement has done nothing to reduce gun violence. when we started to look at tobacco and a cause we had surgeon general statements and we had lawsuits against. danny: -- but gun manufactures manufactures -- >> guest: it's irresponsible and i hope we would be able to start talking intelligently about our gun violence problem in what we can do about it and not fall back into the hysteria about gun control means taking a
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right to have guns away. no, how do you have guns taken away from you and more safer than we do now? >> host: is that the liberal source of the gunowners? >> guest: anybody but certainly i find a lot of my friends -- liberal friends and mayor bloomberg, he is so preoccupied with the problem of gun violence in the city that he thinks the only way to deal with it is to keep crack down harder on everybody's ability to require firearms. new york city's laws are almost as strict as they were in the district of columbia. >> host: the laws of new york particularly in the know you get into it into the book deals with a lot of the concealed carry laws. who has the right to get a permit to carry a gun and how do you think that should be handled? >> guest: i think in general
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all of gun legislation on who can own guns aside from the federal categories that we talked about before, under what circumstances, when you carry and when you don't, they should all be as local as possible. people in new york need different rules than people in new york city, then people in montana or texas probably. they are best able to decide what kinds of rules they should have. unfortunately in a lot of states, the gun lobby has made it impossible for local jurisdictions to make their own rules. >> host: the state preempts it. >> guest: how does a legislator sitting in the capitol -- >> host: the state legislature said no, we can't have local laws. >> guest: at some thinking. is hysteria that produces laws like that. it's not clear thinking about what the problem we have is and how we can intelligently deal
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with it. post i want to touch briefly, and i don't think it got into it too much in the book but the court cases both the heller case and the mcdonald case talk about guns in the home for self-defense. when you talk about concealed carry you are talking about taking the gun to public and and a lot of states there are pushes after the shooting in virginia tech that we should have tons in a classroom or we should have guns in more places. where does that'll go? >> guest: the arguments, you hear that after a large-scale mass shooting. armed people carrying guns in the crowd around congresswoman giffords or the movie theater -- >> host: actually there was a guy carrying a gun around the corner. you mentioned the book -- he rounded the corner and he had our detect the shooter because the large capacity clip ran out of bullets but he said he would
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have shot the bad guy but he didn't know who the bad guy was. that's a problem. >> guest: that's the problem and if you're a police officer had he feel about going into a bar or a restaurant with somebody picking off people at a terrible clip and people who might be victims are shooting back at them. >> host: and you don't know which one is wearing the white hat. >> guest: something people often assume about guns and self-protection is it would help me to have a gun to my home next to my bed for self rejection. okay, robber who is armed breaks into your house and you're asleep. how are you going to get your gun and make sure that the round is chambered, fire and they improperly in the dark? your thinking magic if you think that's going to happen automatically.
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>> host: there are studies that show and people argue about the studies all the time but a gun in your home is 21 more times more likely to be used against you or family member then it is to protect you and that is because someone might use it for suicide of the neighbor next door or you might wake up in the middle of the night integer brother-in-law. people don't talk about the risks and the responsibilities. >> guest: it's easy to use a gun. >> host: one of the important things about your book as you stress there are community responsibilities and there are risks and we need to dialogue. too much of the time whether it's bob costas getting in trouble for talking about it or doctors in florida told they can't talk about are the military told they can't talk about it or people just going hysterical, we need to do -- deal with this issue. >> guest: i hope we will but so far -- >> host: again the gun control side we want to talk and maybe
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that their site doesn't but i'm willing to try anything to get them to the table. thank you for writing the book and hopefully we can get the word out. thank you for the discussiodiscussio n. >> guest: good to talk to you. >> that was supple and booktv's signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists public year's legislatolegislato rs and others familiar with their material. after words airs every weekend at 10:00 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9:00 p.m. on sunday -- though you can also watch on line. go to incorporated click on supple and in the topics list on the upper right side of the page.
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